Cultivating Patient Empathy in Student Pharmacists through an Introduction to Pharmaceutical Care Course
Emily M. Ambizas, Danielle C. Ezzo, Maria Marzella Sulli, and John Conry, Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Abstract: To expose students in an Introduction to Pharmaceutical Care course, to exercises that will stimulate patient empathy and to determine how these activities affected their perceptions of patient challenges.
The course is taught in the spring semester of the first professional year and has approximately 250 students registered per semester. Three exercises were incorporated by the faculty to expose students to situations that would mimic a patient's experience in the patient care process. First, students were expected to make and keep a mock doctor’s appointment with an assigned faculty member. Next, they were provided with a vial of "medication" and instructed to follow the directions on the label for 7 days. Lastly, they were to monitor and record their blood pressure at least once weekly for 4 consecutive weeks. Prior to activities, students were informed to turn in a reflective paper based on their experiences as a patient. Classroom discussion was held in order to share student’s experiences and explore how to implement their discoveries into patient care. Pre and post activity surveys were distributed via Survey Monkey and data were tabulated. Pre-activity surveys were completed by 216 students compared to 187 post surveys. Five multi-part survey questions focused on the level of difficulty that students perceived from the three patient activities. Answers available were on a scale from very easy to very difficult.
Overall, there was an 18.2% increase in students who reported a ‘good understanding of what patients go through’ during post activity analysis and students who reported that they could relate to their patients’ medication experience increased by 20 % during post activity analysis. A 30.8% increase in the number of students who reported they were able to better relate to their patient’s medication experience was also noted. Various positive changes post-activity in regard to each specific task also were observed.
Empathy-provoking activities have been shown to alter student’s perception of various daily activities patient will encounter during their treatment.